How to Incorporate More Plants Into Holiday Meals

Holidays feasts are known for being decadent affairs: cozy, welcoming spreads laden with special occasion foods, fancy drinks for cheers-ing, and visually pleasing tablescapes. What they are not always known for are nutrient-dense, healthy dishes. But just because it might be traditional, your holiday menu doesn’t have to be stacked with rich proteins and dense starches!

We know that the foodies in the ZENB community are always on the lookout for ways to incorporate the colors, textures, and nutrients of plants into both everyday and holiday meals. There’s no need to reinvent the classics — think of these ideas as ways to remix holiday meals with creative, fresh upgrades!

Go for Greens and Garlic

One fabulous way to plant-ify your holiday dinner is by adding greens and garlic! These two ingredients signify the best of fall and winter fare: hearty, seasonal produce (you can find kale, spinach, swiss chard, and collard greens well into the winter at most farmers markets) and bold, umami flavors that provide warmth from the inside out.

Lots of holiday recipes already call for garlic and greens, but here are a handful of unexpected ways to use them:

  • Substitute a kale salad for a regular lettuce salad. 
  • Set out a dish of creamy roasted garlic cloves marinated in olive oil with your bread basket. This is an incredible plant-based substitute for butter!   
  • Add thinly sliced and sauteed greens to casseroles, bakes, and mashes. 
  • Puree garlic cloves with a bit of olive oil to make homemade garlic paste. Use this to add a kick to marinades, sauces, and dressings.   

Or, simply put the two together to make a rustic side dish that goes with everything, like this ZENB Creamy Mushroom Polenta with Kale & Garlic.

Mix Up Your Mash

For many, mashed potatoes are peak comforting holiday food. And while a heaping bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes is indeed an impressive sight, it’s often loaded with butter, cream, and cheese. To add more plants to this iconic dish (without sacrificing an ounce of flavor), consider:

  • Swapping in sweet potatoes, which are more nutrient-dense. 
  • Thickening the mash with vegetable broth or plant-based milk, sour cream, and butter substitutes. 
  • Substituting half of the white potatoes with other root vegetables, like celeriac, turnips, parsnips, and rutabaga.  
  • Stirring in chopped roasted garlic and sauteed greens. (See? They really are so versatile!)

Crank Up the Flavor with Plant-Packed Sauces

Using a plant-packed sauce, like ZENB’s gourmet sauces, is such an easy way of adding more plants to your meals, it almost feels like cheating! Our sauces are unique in that they use every part of their hero veggies, including the seeds, stems, and skins, which means more flavor and more nutrients!

There are a number of ways to use these sauces besides serving them with our pasta. They are real recipe workhorses, especially in braises, stews, and roasts! A few of our favorite ways to use ZENB sauces in holiday-ready preparations are:

Make Vegetables the Main

One of the most significant ways to add more plants to your meal is to make vegetables the main dish instead of one the sides. In many cultures, meat is used more sparingly — more like a garnish than the dominating feature of the plate. Even if you don’t follow a strict plant-based diet, try a veg-for-meat main dish swap and see the difference in how you feel after the meal!

  • Chili: Spicy and savory, chili is loaded with plants, including beans, peppers and more! Try our Salsa Verde Agile Chili, which uses plant-based Italian sausage and quick-cooking Pasta Agile made from yellow peas.
  • Soup: Soups make a wonderful main dish for a holiday meal, especially if it’s cold outside! Dress up ZENB Tomato & Vegetable White Bean Soup with homemade rolls or a gorgeous salad for a homespun, nourishing meal.

For more ideas for holiday meals and beyond, dig into the ZENB recipe collection, and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. 

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